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Updated: Episcopalians respond to refugee ban

Updated: Episcopalians respond to refugee ban

Across the Episcopal church, bishops have been issuing statements in support of refugees and Muslim migrants, and deeply critical of the President’s Executive Order restricting their arrival in the US.

Bishop Greg Rickel, of the Diocese of Olympia in western Washington, wrote

I cannot support the president’s order placing restrictions on refugees based on their nationality and religion. This executive order is a violation of the foundational principles of our nation. As a member of the Jesus movement, I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to receive and help resettle refugees from the more than 65 million people who have been displaced by war, violence, famine, and persecution. To turn these vulnerable people away and limit the flow of refugees into our country is to dishonor the One we serve.

Bishop Jeffrey Lee of Chicago wrote

It is hard to square the Beatitudes or any of today’s readings with the ban on refugees that President Trump signed on Friday afternoon or with many of the other policies that the current administration in Washington is pursuing. The message at the heart of “Make America Great Again” seems to be that if you’re strong enough, powerful enough, smart enough and full enough of the right kinds of privilege, then you win. Far from acknowledging that the meek will inherit the earth, our country’s policies, after just one week, now seem to be grounded in the belief that we can assure our own safety with online bluster, threats about security walls and draconian restrictions on imagined enemies.

Bishop James Mathes, Diocese of San Diego, wrote

As a Christian and a bishop, I have struggled with Trump’s quick claims of his own Christian identity, which seem at odds with his sexist behavior, his dishonesty, and his ostentatious consumption and wealth. But I now know what “America First” means to him and I cannot be silent. America First means the exercise of power and selfishness of which I want no part. These actions will give fodder and strength to those who wish to do us harm. We are at our best as a nation when we give. We are strong when we have appropriate boundaries and an open heart. The truth of the Christian life is indeed part of our national story: it is in giving that we receive.

Bishop William Franklin wrote from Buffalo in the Diocese of Western New York

I am the Bishop of deacons and congregations involved in refugee resettlement.  I have learned the difference between refugees and immigrants.  There are no people who come to this country who are more thoroughly vetted then refugees.  Refugees are fleeing the very people that we name as our enemies.  In the last 40 years the number of American citizens killed by refugees in the entire United States can be counted on the fingers of one had.  We are in no danger from the people who seek refugee from war and persecution in our country.  This is what American was founded for – to be a place of refuge for all.  That is what makes us a light to the world.

In New Jersey, the Rt Rev Mark Beckwith, Diocese of Newark, and the Rt Rev William Stokes, Diocese of New Jersey joined with the Rt Rev Tracie Bartholomew, ELCA, to write

As Christian leaders and Bishops of the Church of God who live and minister in a state marked by wide religious and ethnic diversity, we wish to express our clear opposition to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order issued on Friday, January 27, 2017 titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into The United States.” The President’s Order is discriminatory, unjust and inhumane. As such, it violates what we hold as core values and commitments of the Christian faith.

In Connecticut, Bishop Diocesan Ian Douglas and Bishop Suffragan Laura Ahrens wrote

This Executive Order contravenes our American values of welcoming immigrants and refugees to our shores and makes a mockery of the words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”

As Christians, welcoming the alien and stranger is a fundamental feature of our faith. Hebrew Scripture over and over underscores the importance of treating the alien with hospitality and justice. “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” (Deuteronomy 27:19) We recall that our Lord and Savior was a refugee, fleeing with his mother and father into Egypt to escape persecution and death. (Matthew 2:13-15) And Jesus reminds us that in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ himself into our midst. (Matthew: 25:31-4)

The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island announces

Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely and numerous diocesan clergy have joined thousands of interfaith leaders in signing a letter to the White House and Congress opposing President Trump’s refugee ban.  The letter is described in this article in Episcopal News Service.  The Bishop also attended the protest against the ban at the Rhode Island State House on Sunday, which drew thousands of Rhode Islanders to hear addresses by faith, community, and political leaders.

Bishop Barry Beisner of Northern California was quoted by the Episcopal News Service, writing

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, recently said that this executive order “will be remembered by history together with the Dred Scott decision and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as governmental actions most antithetical to American values. We will resist its implementation by any means available to us.”
To which I say, Amen. And in my judgment it is antithetical to Christian values also.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Diocese of Long Island wrote to thank and affirm the actions of the Safe Passage Project, who worked through the weekend in support of those detained at JFK airport. Again, the Episcopal News Service has the full text.

As the Bishop of Long Island, I recommit our full support and cooperation for your work. Please know that you will always have partners in the Diocese of Long Island. If there is anything we can do to be of immediate assistance to you or the people your serve, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

And St Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, WA wrote

Our acting as neighbor with and offering solidarity to Muslims and all religious groups are an exercise of religious faith. While sanctuary ordinances and practices are consistent with the law as provided by the Constitution, we also uphold and affirm a higher, spiritual law, which says that the civil rights and human dignity of all God’s people must be honored. We pledge circles of protection that say you are welcome. Our house of worship requires no documents and is open to all.

UPDATED to include Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., of Ohio

I do not pretend to have all the answers to difficult issues like the ones we currently face. Nor, however, will I demur from expressing my conviction that this executive order is morally unjust and, while it is intended to increase national security, it puts our country and those who serve on our behalf in diplomatic and military capacities overseas at greatly increased risk. It contradicts values I hold as essential to our identity and vocation as Americans. Both literally and figuratively, the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”[v]

It is important, as we wrestle with issues of immigration and national security, that your and my voices, whatever our perspectives, are heard by one another and by our leaders, and that the seriousness of our commitment to democracy and peace is observed by the world. Our responsibility as citizens does not end at the ballot box, but continues in our ongoing engagement in civil discourse and public policy debate. And as we exercise that democratic responsibility, let us remember that as Americans, with the exception of indigenous peoples, we are all of immigrant descent, both in our familial and our spiritual heritage. More importantly, let us remember that we are Christian, not among other things but above all things.

FURTHER UPDATED with a letter from the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings

I am particularly horrified by the ban on refugees signed by President Trump on Friday evening. It is quite simply an act of malice, particularly toward our Muslim sisters and brothers, and Christians must oppose it loudly and with strength. Many of you are doing so, and I am grateful for the statements and sermons I have seen and the photos in my Facebook feed of Episcopalians gathered at airports and other protest sites to express our church’s commitment to welcoming the stranger. You can find that commitment articulated in actions of General Convention dating back to 1979 (the earliest date at which the archive is digitized) on the website of the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

Right now, more than 65 million people are currently displaced by war, conflict and persecution–the largest number in recorded history. We have an urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need.

Click on any of the links above to read the full texts of the statements. Who have we missed? Add your link in the comments below.

Photo by David Allen: Seattle, WA


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Mike Kozak

Today HP has a story that some 60,000 people have had their visas pulled for no good reason other than they are from the targeted countries named in Trump’s asinine travel ban. I encourage one and all to call/email/write their senators and representatives, like I have, and give them an earful.

Cara Modisett

Ah – apologies, you are correct – there was a delay in receiving it. Will edit to remove that misleading information.

Grace Cangialosi

The letter you included from the Bishops of Virginia to our General Assembly was written a week before Trump’s draconian edict on refugees and deals solely with the issue of LGBT issues that is before our lawmakers. I would like to see them make a statement regarding the immigration/refugee issue. So far I haven’t seen anything.

Jean Lall

Here is an email message sent to Maryland Episcopalians yesterday by our Diocesan Bishop:

March for Refugees: Pray, Act and Walk
February 1, 2017

“Cursed is the one who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Do you know what it feels like to be rejected – not for anything you’ve done, but because of fear of your skin color, religious faith, orientation or national origin?

I have…and it doesn’t feel good. Rejection makes you feel unworthy, lonely and angry.

It’s even worse if you’re rejected by a nation that likes to pride itself for providing safe harbor for refugees. When you and your family are desperately trying to escape violence, war, poverty and oppression, and a country rejects you, it makes you feel like you’re just a worthless piece of refuse that can be thrown or shipped away. You and your family have been rejected because of what others have done who look like you, and your life just doesn’t seem to matter that much to alter the equation of injustice.

One of the driving forces in my ministry is to lead by word and example the Gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, that God loves you – not the bad news that the world rejects you because of who you are.

There’s simply too much fear and hate that’s driving much of our national agenda now, and those emotions are the opposite of Christian faith and the values of our nation.

As your bishop, I stand with thousands of Christian leaders opposing the executive order by President Trump to ban refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries. For more background on this ill-advised policy please read the statement from The Episcopal Church’s President of the House of Deputies.

That’s why I’m asking you to join me this Saturday, February 4, 9:00 AM for a “March for Refugees.” We’ll begin at Old St. Paul’s Church, 233 North Charles Street, Baltimore, march up Charles Street to the Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 East University Parkway. At 11:00 AM we’ll have a service of prayer, music and testimony ending by Noon. Further details are below.

If you can’t march Saturday, you can still act by “praying with your hands.” Write or call your elected representatives in Congress and President Trump. Tell them your thoughts about our nation’s stance against those seeking refuge. Be sure to stress your values as a follower of Christ. How to contact them and a sample letter or script are on the Episcopal Church website.

Let’s stop the hate. As Christians, let’s stand up to fear, bigotry and injustice. Clergy, wear your collars. Parishioners, bring your signs and singing voices. Let’s walk, speak out and pray for refugees – the “strangers” in our world whom the Bible tells us to receive as Christ himself.

Faithfully yours,
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Episcopal Bishop of Maryland

Cara Modisett

The Presiding Bishop has released a statement, which we excerpted here:

In addition, we’ve just this evening received a copy of the statement from Bishops of Virginia and will be posting that as well. It can be read online at

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